The Role of the Planning Office in Newburyport, MA

Let’s have a little chat about the Mayor John Moak’s redefining Julie LaBranche’s (our former City Planner) old job description.

In the past City Planners in Newburyport, MA have worked with applicants to explain what is generally acceptable to the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA.)

The City Planner has explained to all sorts folks coming into Newburyport City Hall for help and information on projects large and small about height, building mass, lot coverage, setbacks when applying for special permits and variances.

Believe me before I started the Newburyport Political Blog I had no clue about any of this stuff. And it’s so complicated that I still do not comprehend most of it, and I’m really trying.

So I know for your average person in Newburyport, MA talking with someone about what they would like to do is really, really important. And it is my understanding that many of the projects that are initially presented to the Planning Office simply wouldn’t fly with the ZBA.

And yes, this is where a City Planner is so handy. Because a City Planner in Newburyport, MA can offer options as to how to avoid excesses that may cause delay or just downright rejection by the ZBA.

And a good City Planner can also offer up constructive solutions that will benefit the applicant and the residents of the City of Newburyport as well. Or what I would call one of those delightful “win-win” situations.

However, if the new “Zoning Administrator” is going to have to review every building application, which by the way it is my understanding that that job belongs to the Newburyport Building Inspector, “goodbye” helping the public and “hello” to jamming up the Zoning Board of Appeals. And this is very unappealing in my book, let me tell you.

So, I still cannot figure out what in the world Mayor John Moak could be thinking about with this revamping of the Planning Office. It really, really doesn’t work for me.

And whoever is Mayor next, if they are in tuned with what a Planning Office is all about, they will have to completely redefine what the Zoning Administrator, Building Inspector and Planning Office would be doing. And hopefully change the Zoning Administrator’s job back to that of a City Planner. Yes, necessary and vital, and what an incredible waste of time for all and sundry in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton